In the lexicon of my book, Advocates & Enemies, a Critic is an individual who you have a great relationship with (trust, openness and frequency), but they disagree with what you are seeking to achieve. Because of the strength of your relationship with them, these are special friends who can provide immense benefit to help you stretch your performance and pressure test your proposals. If the relationship is poor, they will more likely be an Enemy (okay, a strong word to use, but provocative by intent). So engage positively with Critics because they can help you so much.
The best approach to engage with them depends on the type of Critic they happen to be. If you pause a few moments to reflect on this, you are likely to be able to engage with them far more effectively. In the book, I highlighted a number of different Critics…
- Black Hat Critic: These people seem to have acquired a personality trait of excessive judgement and criticism. To them, the whole world seems dark and somewhat wrong – their criticism of your plans is not personal, it’s just their way of looking at the world. Adjusting your attitude towards them will help to unlock the benefits they can bring.
- Incidental Critic: Generally, these are people who are rooting for you, but on the particular objective in focus, they’ve got a problem with it. These are people to really understand and listen to. The great thing is that they care enough to challenge you on it. They are also likely to invest the time in helping you to adjust your proposals. Thanking them for this is a great way to start a productive problem-solving meeting.
- Accidental Critic: These Critics actually agree with you and your proposal. They think it’s a great idea and really should be classified as Advocates. However, something else is causing them to disagree with you. It may be that the timing is wrong, or that there is an even better idea out there which should be implemented before yours. Recognising their position is a great starting point for a discussion about the feasibility of what you are proposing. Indeed, it may be that there is something else which needs to be handled off to one side of your project to allow this one to sail through.
With all Critics, the key to successful engagement is understanding and dialogue. The benefit of a strong open relationship should be leveraged so you can benefit from their insight and wisdom. Be careful not to categorise them as Players or Enemies, otherwise you could quickly sink the relationship. Instead, focus on joining with them with a positive open attitude which will help you both to become even more successful!